The Secrets We Keep In Marriage That Destroy Us

I put on a show for the outside world while my inner world was crumbling.

couple getting married GoProtography / Shutterstock

I used to run into a woman who was never with her husband. I attributed it to her being overly social. I was fairly clueless until my own marriage began to deteriorate. That’s when I noticed which women seemed to be minus their husbands unless it was a game or school event.

We’re not talking about the average girls' night.

We’re talking about living parallel universes. Going out into the world as if nothing is wrong for appearance's sake. Some would call it decorum. I say it’s pretending. Putting on a show for the outside world while your inner world is crumbling.


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We keep secrets in marriage. 

I’m not sure why.

A few people who were brave enough to share their own troubles, retreated once I told them I was filing for divorce. “Oh, my relationship isn’t that bad,” they would say. Or “My husband could be worse,” or “The grass will never be greener.” And it was back to perpetual singles nights.

In our twenties, we have no problem declaring our tragic feelings. Let alone dealing with them. Even better, we move towards a remedy and resolution.

“I’m looking for a new job because I hate this one.”


“I broke up with him he wasn’t treating me well.”

“I don’t want to date him because I refuse to compromise.”

We don’t have secrets.

We don’t feel the need to hide behind an illusion. Perfection isn’t an expectation. We’re young and our mistakes are more overt, less covert. We are accountable and present in our lives.

Somehow the formal institution of marriage ushers significant baggage. Marital problems are an embarrassment. An indication we aren’t doing life right. What would people think? 

I’ve never had secrets nor am I comfortable with them. 

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I’ve never found life embarrassing. Yet a struggling marriage mortified me.


For the first time in my life, I felt ashamed. In those early years of relationship collapse, I told nearly no one. I rationalized it was keeping my family together. And there’s some truth to that. You don’t want the community talking about your marriage.

But here’s what happened.

Ultimately they did. Because I limped throughout a broken relationship keeping long guarded secrets until there was nothing left to save.

If marital problems weren’t considered a negative anomaly maybe we would deal with them immediately. Maybe they wouldn’t reside under the carpet until the rug is fought over in the divorce.

It’s a phenomenon. The adult shift away from the comfort of expressing our angst to portraying an image. In this way, our younger selves were more confident and empowered. 


Problems rarely turn out well when we ignore them.

The woman I knew who was alone in the early years of marriage ultimately got divorced. Even though she protested and claimed her marriage was fine. Especially once she heard my marriage was ending. 

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Here’s the other thing:

In the beginning, most won’t know what’s going on in your four walls. But as your children grow older so does your community circle. Eventually, someone will whisper your well-kept secrets over a cocktail or coffee. 

When I did confide in three people, it wasn’t long before someone approached my friend about it. I was able to trace it back to the one who divulged my secret. Because the person who was talking about me was close to her. 


But the reason they were gossiping is that we view marital problems as contraband secrets. This was the infancy of my relationship issues. It wasn’t the drama it would one day become. There shouldn’t have been a story worth repeating around town. We weren’t on the brink of divorce.

But it circulated.

Because people can’t keep secrets.

So why do we create them? 

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist & former business columnist. She covers love, life, & relationships.